GREEN BAY, Wis. - Shannon O'Keefe of O'Fallon, Illinois, wasted no time in the title match, defeating Colombia native Clara Guerrero of Pflugerville, Texas, 252-203, to win the Pepsi Professional Women's Bowling Association Lincoln Open, her third career PWBA title and second of the 2016 season.
O'Keefe never trailed in the match, beginning with three consecutive strikes to set the tone. Guerrero began the match with a strike of her own, but followed with an open frame and two consecutive spares to trail by 32 pins after four frames.
In the fifth frame, Guerrero made a ball change and immediately doubled to stay within striking distance. But following spares in the fourth and fifth frames, O'Keefe quickly climbed back on the strike train with five consecutive on the way to victory.
"It's surreal," said O'Keefe, who led after the qualifying and match-play rounds at Sun Valley Lanes in Lincoln, Nebraska. "I think I've led wire-to-wire potentially and lost in the finals of an event, but I've never come out with a win. I don't know, it's surreal. I don't even know how that happened."
For O'Keefe, her success in 2016 might not be possible without her previous television experiences. Through repetition, the 37-year-old right-hander has learned how to control her emotions when competing on television.
"The difference is the more you put yourself in the position, the more you get comfortable with those nervy feelings, the quicker I'm able to manage them." said O'Keefe, who is a 12-time Team USA member. "Before it wouldn't be until the fifth, sixth or seventh frame until I would settle down. Now, it's almost the first shot. I just make sure I stay behind the foul line, the ball gets off my hand and it goes away. So, I think that helps a lot."
O'Keefe's previous shortcomings are nothing but a memory in the rear-view mirror as she continues to drive through a stellar 2016 PWBA Tour season.
"You believe in your abilities because you know how hard you've worked," O'Keefe said. "You know the time you've put in, the sacrifices you've made, but to get so close and to have things always not end in your favor, to always be the bridesmaid and not the bride, you ask yourself, 'Do I actually have what it takes to be a Liz, to be a Kelly. Do I have that because I don't know?' So, to get that first one, and get the monkey off my back, this is just icing on the cake now. It's that first one that means the most."
Guerrero, who won the Go Bowling PWBA Players Championship earlier this season, earned her spot into the title match after defeating 2015 PWBA Player of the Year and United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Liz Johnson, 214-212.
Johnson, the No. 3 seed, led the match until the seventh frame, where her only open gave the lead to Guerrero, who remained clean and tossed a three-bagger starting in the sixth frame.
Johnson doubled in frames eight and nine and stepped up in the 10th frame with a chance to win the match, but left a 2 pin on the first shot to allow Guerrero to advance.
In the opening match, Johnson struck on five of her first six shots on the way to defeating No. 4 seed April Ellis of Jackson, Tennessee, 225-184
All qualifying and match-play rounds of the Pepsi PWBA Lincoln Open were held at Sun Valley Lanes in Lincoln, Nebraska, on June 10-11.
The stepladder finals were held June 26 at The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley in conjunction with the Go Bowling PWBA Players Championship, and the finals of the PWBA Wichita Open and PWBA Greater Detroit Open.
The Players Championship finals aired live on CBS Sports Network, while the Wichita Open aired July 5, and the Greater Detroit Open will air July 19 on CBS Sports Network.
PEPSI PWBA LINCOLN OPEN
At The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley, Green Bay, Wis.
1, Shannon O'Keefe, O'Fallon, Illinois, 252 (one game), $10,000
2, Clara Guerrero, Pflugerville, Texas, 417 (two games), $5,000
3, Liz Johnson, Cheektowaga, New York, 437 (two games), $3,500
4, April Ellis, Jackson, Tennessee, 184 (one game), $3,000
Match One - Johnson def. Ellis, 225-184
Semifinal - Guerrero def. Johnson, 214-212
Championship - O'Keefe def. Guerrero, 252-203